Stop fidgeting around so we can pelt you with these rocks!
This sucks to admit, but very little of the money I make from Qt3 comes from me being a writer. If I just wrote reviews and whatever else I do on the front page, I would have long ago had to throw in the towel. I'm no Jim Sterling or Ben Croshaw or Jerry Holkins. There simply isn't enough traffic on the front page to make Qt3 an efficient use of my time. I'm grateful for what traffic there is, and I'm doing way better than the average random dude with a WordPress blog. But very little of this site's income is from people reading my reviews of some indie games, or a boardgame, or some horror movie I just watched, even with occasional bumps in traffic for non-controversial reviews of AAA stuff like Doom or Fallout, and even with the even more occasional spikes in traffic from people showing up to heckle a Halo or Stellaris review. There would probably be even less traffic if it weren't for Nick Diamon doing a great job consistently putting up interesting news bits so that when people come back the next day, they're likely to see something that wasn't there before. I'm embarrassed for how little Nick makes given what he does and how well he does it.
Instead, the majority of traffic on this site is because it's a message board. People show up regularly, they load multiple pages, they stick around, they flip through conversations, they come back later in the day, they load more pages, they come back at night before bed. That is the reason this site has survived. I don't make money because I write for Qt3. I make money because Qt3 is a community.
And I'm proud of that. I'm proud of what you guys have done. I don't deserve credit for this. The metaphor of Qt3 as my living room is kind of misguided, because the living room itself matters far less than the people in it. So ultimately, I want what's best for those people. I want it to be convenient for them. I want a minimum of hurdles in their way. And I appreciate that you're so intent on that as well.
Therefore, if the situation was indeed "a mud of forum ads", I would agree that we should turn those ads off. That's one of the reasons we haven't used Google ads for years. They were causing too many problems, or at least the perception of problems. Furthermore, that's why we haven't run an ad after the first post in every thread. Don't think I haven't been tempted! By serving up three ads instead of two, I would make roughly 50% more money if I stuck an ad there. To be honest, if the Patreon campaign didn't take off -- thanks disproportionately to a particular dude! :) -- I was considering putting up that third ad.
My point is that I would never want ads on the forum to substantially damage the community's experience. That has been my goal all along, well in advance of making money from the site. You and I are both agreed there, even if we disagree about how intrusive the ads are. I can't tell you how much that means to me. Some of us might sound exasperated with how vocally you champion Discourse over vBulletin, but we all appreciate the impetus behind it.
QUOTE=wumpus;3986761]You'd arguably get better community support if you grow the forums (with, say, modern forum software) and get those new users to sign up for premium stuff and sponsorships. Bigger audiences -- more money. And nothing says respect for your audience, like.. well.. anything but vBulletin.. and a nice, modern, fast experience.[/quote]
Okay, first of all, bigger audiences only make more money if we're serving them ads! I'm not convinced premium stuff and sponsorships are a viable way to make money. Actually, I'm not even sure what those are, so you might be right.
But more to the point, let me make a confession that I'm not sure I've made before. This might have come up in past conversations, but I don't recall.
I'm not terribly interested in growing the community, at least not in the sense you mean.
I'm happy for us to have new people, and it's really exciting to me when someone sends an intro email to get an account turned on. I wish I could show you guys those emails. They range from little one-line "uh, hi, I don't know what to say" mumbles to extensive enthusiastic bios. Some of them are from retirees who are heavily into MMOs and some of them are from high school kids (I always tell them the forum is for people 18 and over, so come on in, but avoid mentioning your age for a couple years). Some of them are from people who say they found the forum because of a particular article (about once a year, someone comes here because of Angie Gallant's pigeon diaries thing) and others are from people who just followed a link and found themselves at Qt3 with no idea what it is. I regularly get people who want to join the tournament stuff run by Dave Perkins and others (although a lot of them have left for something called Slack (?)). Some of them say something like "I used to read your stuff all the time but I had no idea you had a forum" and some of them are all, "WTF, who I am is none of your business!" (those people eventually get shuffled into the mix, but I don't go out of my way to activate their accounts when I get the email).
But I'm really not looking to substantially change the size of this community, because I think that would change the community. We've definitely lost traffic over the years. The rise of social media is a big part of it. We lost folks when they went over to Scott Jennings' site (which was an unpleasant process, but ultimately a net positive for everyone involved). But I like where we're at and I think it's a crucial part of our identity. My goal isn't to make Quarter to Three bigger, it's to make it as good as it can be for the people already here. And while I realize that communities that don't grow are communities that die off, that doesn't mean we should compromise our identity as a living room with a handful of folks who know each other. If that principle was going to cause Quarter to Three to die off, it would have happened by now.
So -- as I've said before -- I'm not averse to changing forum software. But I don't feel vBulletin is as big an obstacle as you suggest. I'm open to hearing otherwise from people, and we can definitely start that discussion again at any time. You know better than to suggest I'm not switching software because I don't respect the community. Dude. Also, if and when we do change software, I have a couple of hard rules. One of them is that we won't have likes. You and I have hashed out that disagreement, and I think we both understand each other even though we disagree. But if someone wants to reboot the discussion (preferably in one of the pre-existing threads), I'm all for consistently checking where we stand.
God, I hate Disqus with the first of a thousand suns. Next to convenience for users, the biggest reason I'd switch to different forum software is to integrate the forum discussion with the front page and be rid of Disqus forever.